Editorial: Waste not…

Here’s some food for thought as you throw away your dinner leftovers.

June 24, 2013


A news release earlier this month about two federal agencies launching a challenge to reduce wasted food included some statistics that are bound to remind many people of their mothers’ admonition to “Clean your plate. You shouldn’t let that food go to waste.”

The U.S. Food Waste Challenge is a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency: the people who produce the food and those concerned about what happens to the food that’s thrown away.

According to the EPA, Americans waste 30 to 40 percent of their food. That’s a shocking amount of food being thrown out rather than consumed by hungry people. Once that food arrives at landfills across the country, it begins to decompose, creating large amounts of methane that contribute to damaging greenhouse gases.

Another surprising statistic: The 35 million tons of food Americans send to landfills and incinerators every year represents the largest single category of solid waste, even higher than paper and plastic. In addition to the impact of discarded food, the agencies also note the front-end waste of energy to produce and transport food that eventually is thrown away.

The Food Waste Challenge is taking a multifaceted approach to this problem, working with producers, processors, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to promote efforts to reduce, recover and recycle food waste. They are looking at ways to reduce waste in school meals programs and to educate consumers about food waste and food storage. One more statistic: The amount of food wasted in American homes and restaurants was valued at $390 per U.S. consumer in 2008.

Reducing this waste is a big challenge, but it’s also an effort that can benefit from individuals simply being more conscious of the quantity of food they purchase, consume and throw away. There’s more to it than simply cleaning your plate, but the food waste statistics seem to confirm that your mother had the right idea.


Ken Lassman 4 years, 12 months ago

Funny you mention that--we don't currently have chickens so put kitchen scraps and inedible leftovers out to a compost pile, which in the country feeds more birds like crows who love to pick through it than ends up becoming compost. But that's fine with me; it keeps what trash we don't recycle clean and animals don't kick over the trash can to find food.

But composting is easy and a good way to enrich your garden/flower beds. The Lawrence sanitation dept. has a good set of instructions on how to set up a worm composting box that turns your food scraps into high quality compost in record time, to boot.

I think Free State Brewery composts their food leftovers too and uses it to grow tomatoes that they use in their business; at least they used to. Anyone know if they still do that?

LogicMan 4 years, 12 months ago

There was an interesting TV news story a while ago about how Las Vegas casinos send their food waste to a local pig farm, for slop. The grown pigs' meat is then sold to the casinos. Now that's recycling!

George_Braziller 4 years, 12 months ago

Mike Rowe did a "Dirty Jobs" episode on that.

LogicMan 4 years, 12 months ago

Soylent Green was another good reuse of waste. Too bad production ended when that old movie exposed it. You hairless apes got queasy about letting us export it to the home world.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 12 months ago

Perhaps eat out places could reduce their servings and the prices = win win.

If cleaning off the plate is the rule of thumb place smaller units on the plate.....

Unless one is a quite active growing tee-age male who can consume large quantities yet remain on the thin side. For the less active eat less.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 12 months ago

So you want restaurants to reduce their prices while simultaneously raising the minimum wage of their employees to $17.50/hr., as per a previous post. That's fine, as long as restaurants choose to eliminate profit as part of their business model. Not a model I'd choose for my restaurant, but feel free to open your own non-profit restaurant, Merrill.

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